5 Best Ways to Go Green When Going Back to School

SchoolAs my mother always said, it’s the most wonderful time of the year- back to school! I think she was more excited to get seven kid-free hours a day, but for us it meant new clothes, school supplies, and haircuts. Whatever makes you excited for the new school year, it’s important to reduce waste and try to buy the greenest products to ensure a healthy planet, thus healthy students. Below are a few steps to ensure a sustainable school year!

1. Make sure you really need new supplies

More often than not, the allure of new school supplies blinds us from realizing that we don’t actually need them. I’ve concluded countless years of school with binders, accordion folders, flash card holders, and notebooks that were hardly used. Rather than starting from scratch and buying all new products, I would use the same binders year after year, as well as anything else that had barely been touched the year before. So before going to the store, make sure to go through all your school stuff to see if there is anything that can be reused.

2. Buy quality products that will last

Part of the reason I was able to use my binders, backpack, and other school supplies for years was because my mother always chose sturdy, high quality products. It makes much more sense to spend a little bit more one year on lasting products, than to keep spending money on all new supplies every fall. Some good products to look for are recycled PET backpacks, the Seven Year Pen, and biodegradable folders and binders. These supplies are a bit more expensive than the ones found in Walmart’s back-to-school sale, but last much longer than typical, cheaper products.

3. Choose classic designs

It might sound like a drag, but it’s best to avoid trendy designs and characters when purchasing new school supplies. I remember being upset when my mom made me buy a plain purple backpack in kindergarten, instead of the Lion King one I really wanted. However, I ended up using the purple backpack until fifth grade, and it never went out of style. If you’re trying to buy products that last, stay away from the “in” trends. If not, you could end up being the kid still using a Justin Bieber lunchbox in sixth grade.

4. Get reusable lunch containers

By far the greatest waste of money and material comes from lunches. Plastic bags, individual mini-packs, and brown paper bags are some of the worst contributors. Instead, it’s much easier and healthier to buy reusable containers to store your food, than continually buying lunch baggies. Bento lunch boxes and the Stainless Steel Three-in-one Box are great options that come with several different sized containers that fit neatly inside. They are dishwasher safe, can store a variety of foods, and make it easy to forgo individual plastic bags.  If you find them to be too small, you can always splurge for a bigger lunch box and buy Tupperware, or sandwich holders separately.

5. Choose your mode of transportation wisely

It may be difficult after a summer of sleeping in to wake up early and walk to school, but walking or biking are great eco-friendly ways to make it to class by the last bell. Even the smallest amount of exercise gives you a boost of energy as you start your day, so walking and biking are optimal choices. If your school is too far, or the weather is poor, taking the school bus is the next best option. Busses hold more than 50 students and help keep morning traffic under control by taking many kids to school at once, thus eliminating the need for more individual vehicles. It’s much better for the environment to have one big bus driving to school than 50 personal cars. If by chance your school doesn’t provide a bus (mine didn’t), try carpooling with a neighbor to limit the amount of cars going to the same place.

With the anticipation of a new school year, it’s easy to lose focus on sustainability. But if you follow these easy steps, you’ll make a big difference in reducing waste and even save yourself some money! So go green when you go back to school. It’s the smarter choice!

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